By Madina Toure
Nine city employees from Queens were arrested last week and charged in a massive housing fraud and bribery scheme that involved properties in three boroughs, the Manhattan district attorney said. Three Queens real estate sites were part of the crackdown.
Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr., city Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton announced the indictment of 50 defendants who took bribes and shortcuts in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens Feb. 10.
The defendants include 11 city Department of Building employees, five city Department of Housing Preservation and Development employees and 28 property managers, contractors and expediters.
The defendants were charged in 26 State Supreme Court indictments with crimes including bribery, bribe receiving, falsifying business records, tampering with public records and official misconduct.
Sandro Cabrera, 43, of Bayside, David Weiss, 32, and Artan Mujko, 53, of Ridgewood were charged in DOB-related plots, according to the indictments. Alex Zivkovic, 48, Frank Campasano, 63, Barry Rice, 51, and Steven Crawford, 52, were charged in HPD-related plots, while Glendale residents Agostino Accardo, 40, and Michelangelo Accardo, 31, were charged for their alleged involvement in organized crime.
A property on 25-48 Steinway St. in Long Island City and another property on 135-21 37th Ave. in Flushing were both cited as addresses affected by corruption in the DOB, according to Vance. The third property, 18-19 Grove St. in Ridgewood, was the scene of swindling in HPD, he said.
The two-year investigation, started by the DOI and the Manhattan DA’s Rackets Bureau in 2013, started as an inquiry into the bribery of a single DOB inspector.
But the investigation eventually revealed about $450,000 worth of alleged bribes in a number of specific arrangements between 16 DOB and HPD employees and 22 property managers and owners, six expediters, two contractors and one engineer, authorities said.
Mujko, a DOB inspector from March 2008 to October 2014, allegedly received $70,000 from David Weiszer, an unregistered DOB filing representative, for regularly passing building inspections, the Manhattan DA said.
Rice, an HPD inspector, worked with Luis Soto, a Brooklyn HPD inspector, to vacate tenants under false pretenses from a Bushwick building in exchange for a cash bribe, Vance said.
Campasano, owner of an apartment building in Bushwick, was similarly charged with bribing Rice and Soto to evict tenants with the excuse of an alleged HPD vacate order, according to the indictment.
Rice also worked with Crawford, an HPD inspector, to negotiate bribes from Joel Rubin, a property manager, to arrange pre-inspections and dismiss violations from two properties, court papers said.
Cabrero and Weiss were charged with offering bribes ranging from $200 to $2,800 in exchange for numerous DOB favors involving the removal of complaints, according to the Manhattan DA.
Zivkovic is among property owners who gave out more than $41,000 in bribes to Ortiz and Soto to remove hundreds of building violations, the indictment said.
The Accardos were charged with running an unlicensed check bundling and money transmission service in violation of New York State Banking Law, according to Vance.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour